Oct 03

THE JOHNSTON BROTHERS – “Hernando’s Hideaway”

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#38, 11th November 1955

“All you see are silhouettes / And all you hear are castanets / And no-one cares how late it gets / Not at Hernando’s Hideaway” – late night Spanish-themed drinking dens are romanticised by the Johnstons. Perhaps some of the staff in certain of London’s current nightspots remembered this song from their boyhoods and let it influence their choice of career? Sordid present-day realities aside this is an evocative, neatly-produced novelty, which only starts to irritate after half a dozen plays. Castanets are all over the place of course, but you also get struck matches, mysterious knocks, vocals conspiratorially down near the mic and flashing string flourishes.



  1. 1
    rosie on 3 May 2008 #

    It is, of course, a show tune, from The Pajama Game. Any romance involved is ironic (what’s being described is a Prohibition-era speakeasy in Iowa, for heaven’s sake! And during a garment workers’ strike.

    Where I remember it best is from a cabaret bar in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1988 (I was staying with the pianist.) The speciality of the house was show tunes and this was an eternal favourite, with lighters lit – Rocky Horror Show style – at the “strikle a match” line.

  2. 2
    Matthew on 10 Jan 2009 #


  3. 3
    EpigomommaZem on 1 Apr 2009 #


  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 6 Oct 2009 #

    The flip of this was Hey There, also from The Pajama Game. I’m rather confused as to why this anonymous bunch had the number one when the exact same coupling was released by the rather more stylish Johnnie Ray, and also Doris Day (who sang Hey There in the movie).

    Apparently it was a real place, a speakeasy in Dubuque, Iowa. Bars all over the US (where it wasn’t a no.1) have nicked the name, but not in the UK. How queer.

  5. 5
    Eli on 2 Jan 2011 #

    Did Doris sing Hey There in the film? She certainly didn’t release a recording of it, or HH. It would have been fairly odd if she had, as it was strange enough for her label, Columbia, to have already released recordings of Hey There by two artists on their roster – Johnnie Ray and Rosemary Clooney. Only JR recorded HH from that label, in fact…

    I think the Johnston Brothers were like The Stargazers – on radio/TV quite a lot, so maybe they plugged it on the air!

    Nice enough record; it was used to advertise Renault cars on TV a few years ago, I recall!

  6. 6
    Eli on 2 Jan 2011 #

    Hey There is a superb song – far more subtle and delicate than HH. A nice flipside to the coin…

  7. 7
    wichita lineman on 6 Jan 2011 #

    Re 5: You’re right Eli, I was thinking of Rosemary Clooney’s Hey There, which was also the flip of a number one single, This Ole House! Yes, Doris sang it in the film – it’s where Rosie gets that “are you talking to me?” line from.

  8. 8
    Eli on 6 Jan 2011 #

    Only in America – as I suspected before I checked, they weren’t on the same UK release. Her Billboard feat with the record is impressive:

  9. 9
    Mark G on 21 Jan 2011 #

    Not to be confused with The Brothers Johnson, of “Strawberry Letter 23” and “Get the funk outta my face” fame.

  10. 10
    Paulito on 3 Feb 2020 #

    By a sad coincidence, Jerry Ross, who co-wrote The Pajama Game, died aged just 29 on the day this version hit no. 1. Together with his writing partner Richard Adler, Ross had just scored two smash hit Broadway musicals in a row (Damn Yankees was the other) when he was struck down by lung disease.

  11. 11
    Paulito on 3 Feb 2020 #

    As for the song itself: show tunes, particularly those of a novelty bent, sometimes don’t work too well out of context – but this one does just fine. I liked its tongue-in-cheek tangoing intrigue long before I knew it was from a musical.

  12. 12
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    I would go along with Tom’s 5/10 here.

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